From November 2016 to November 2017, we did 186 distillations. We are on a roll!
We want to distill the oils of 200 local aromatic plant oils. Our small, 5 gallon still is the perfect size for experimentation. It doesn’t take too much energy to collect the amount of plant material it takes to fill it. Wildcrafting that amount doesn’t make us feel that we’re endangering a community of local plants, wiping out a batch of herb that our neighbors might need if they want to gather some for medicine. From one plant, we try to collect oil from the leaves, the fruit, the wood… We’re playing, having fun, collecting information on the aromatic plant oil bank in our natural environment. Hopefully, as more farmers and other individuals decide to start small, at-home distilleries, the information we are gathering can help them.
We are on a mission! We’re plant oil collectors! We hunt aromatic plants. Our kids walk around, picking leaves, rubbing them, smelling them. They run to me, holding a root, scraping it, shoving it in my face for me to smell, proud to find a plant with distillation potential.
In addition to hunting wild plants, we want to work with farmers to distill cultivated plants. Thyme, peppermint, ginger, turmeric, pine from the Blue Mountain Christmas tree farms, hot pepper, rosemary, even coffee. What is the potential of the distillation of cultivated plants? We know that an essential oil industry is good for farmers. Even at the stage we are in now, we have bought or traded for plant material from more than 20 farmers.
We need to connect with industries with plant based by-products. Which juice company disposes of peels which could be distilled, and when depleted, finally composted?
At a certain point, when we pass through the experimentation stage of our project, we will need a bigger still. Building a still in Jamaica will be an adventure that we both look forward to and dread in equal measure. What we learn will help other Jamaicans who want a still, but can’t afford to buy and import one.
Doesn’t this all sound like fun?